I don’t think that I have ever spoken, over the phone, to a more enthusiastic person, who is absolutely passionate about the subject of laughter and the great benefits it holds for humanity.
DONAL O’NEILL - AUTHOR
However, it is when one looks at the enormity of what Robin Graham put together to form the UK National Laughter Festival and Championships that one really gets an inkling of his commitment.In my experience most “festivals” start their existence as a weak-kneed, weekend event. As the legs strengthen, they may or may not expand by a day or two each year until they cover a whole week.
Not Robin’s event. He went straight for eight days!Day one began with simultaneous laughing events in Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland!
Day two saw free Laughter Yoga sessions in central Manchester, as well as laughter sessions for staff and patients in a local hospital.Day three saw Laughter being taken into local schools’ assemblies, as well as free Laughter Yoga sessions in the city centre.
Day four had more free Laughter Yoga sessions in the centre of the city but also included a Chamber of Commerce business breakfast presentation, a Laughter session in a day centre for older people and a dissemination session on something called the HAHAs European Project. This is a project that has been going since 2010. It was set up to explore the connections within humour across age groups and cultures in Europe.Thursday was day five and this was the day of the World Record! It began with one person laughing and then passing their laugh on to at least one other who, in turn, did the same. A record of four hours of continuing laughter, with at least one person laughing at all times, was established.
There was also a Community Laughter session at St Clements Church in Cholton, after which the Cholton Film Society gave a screening of “Salt of Life”, a warm, witty comedy.Friday, which was day six, was Conference Day, from 10:30am to 4:30pm. It was a day of learning, laughing and looking at how people can use laughter positively in their lives, with a particular focus on carers and community groups.
The Saturday saw the first UK National Laughter Championships at The Comedy Store in Manchester.The final day on Sunday began with a free, 30 minutes, Laughter Workshop at The Lowry in Salford.
The focus then moved along the road to Macclesfield for a talk and Laughter Workout at the Barnaby Festival. The National Festival was brought to a close with a final open-air Laughter Yoga session.Robin told me that the whole event was a success, with almost 1000 participants across the events. He intends to run the event again next year but would appreciate some enthusiastic help.
He would like to see the event growing and moving to other cities as years go on. If you would like to get involved, please email Robin on firstname.lastname@example.org.Robin was very serious when he said to me, “If we can get everyone laughing, we will change the World!”
He is right!
DONAL O’NEILL - AUTHOR